Andreas Staier, the German-born, Hanover and Amsterdam-trained pianist/harpsichordist is fast becoming the harmonia mundi go to man for recordings of modern instruments and the fortepiano.
For this recording of Schubert Trios, Staier is joined by Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie concertmaster, Daniel Sepec and Roel Dieltiens, cello. All three play period instruments. And all three are master musicians. Happily, Staier's fortepiano, a copy of an 1827 Graf, sounds nothing like others I've heard -- poor tone and sounding hideously out of tune. Staier's piano sounds wonderful. And, in tune.
You'd be hard pressed to discover the period sound from the violin and cello, too. In any case, all three make the case that gifted freelancers can produce superb Schubert ensemble, equal of the benchmark for this repertoire, the Beaux Arts Trio.
As you read this, did you have a bad day? If so, not much could be more thereaputic than listening to this wonderful music. Uplifting, inspiring. Better than a hot shower and a latte. Usually, you'd reach for the aforementioned Beaux Arts Trio. Yet, this harmonia mundi pickup group is their equal, offering up performances of real distinction. And yet another recording from harmonia minding that equals the performances.
The scale of these substantial four movement works is deceptive. Truly grand in design, they begin simply enough -- Schubert scales both trios from elegant introductions to developments of intensity and complexity. It's a bit of a swizz, really, but in the very best way. You open with typically elegant Schubert salon music then are taken on an intensely musical journey. Even after a long day, I wasn't bothered. Happy, too.
The playing has a consistency that belies their freelance stature. Ensemble is superb -- give and take and exquisite phrasing suggests long rehearsals and study. They're not phoning it in. They equal my favourite trio of the moment, Trio Wanderer.
By the time we get to the beautiful Andantes, each player gets to demonstrate beautiful phrasing -- time stands still, but the music flows. There is so much depth behind the gorgeous melodies -- it's here where the gravitas of these works sink in. We're out of the salon, for sure. I admit that here I prefer the modern instruments of the Trio Wanderer. Their cellist is especially fine. But the phrasing of Staier and his colleagues is a constant delight. The scherzos lilt rather than pulsate and their 'trios' are allowed to breathe with steady tempos and phrasing.
The finales crackle with energy, but the rhythms are never forced. The players offer plenty of intensity but there's always time for the phrases to breathe.
A first choice? Well, no, not with gems from the Beaux Arts and Wanderer around. When listening to the modern instruments, don't be surprised by the abrupt change of pitch (A440 on the modern instruments) rather than this group's A415.
Trio pour piano et violoncelle op.99 D.898 en si bémol majeur / B flat major / B-Dur
Andante un poco mosso
Nocturne op.148 D.897 en mi bémol majeur / E flat major / Es-Dur
Trio pour piano et violoncelle op.100 D.929 en mi bémol majeur / E flat major / Es-Dur
Andante con moto
Scherzando. Allegro moderato
2 CD [97:00]